Gold-surface-mediated hydrogenation chemistry
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High surface area catalysts have been studied and applied in a wide range of chemical reactions and processes. The related microscopic details of surface chemistry are important and can be effectively explored employing surface science techniques. My dissertation focuses on investigations of catalytic properties of gold, primarily using vacuum molecular beam techniques, temperature programmed desorption (TPD) measurements, reflection-absorption infrared spectroscopy (RAIRS), and density functional theory (DFT) calculations. I conducted fundamental studies of hydrogenation reactions on a H atoms pre-covered Au(111) single crystal surface with co-adsorption of various chemical compounds, including acetaldehyde (CH₃CHO), acetone (CH₃COCH₃), propionaldehyde (CH₃CH₂CHO), water (H₂O), and nitrogen dioxide (NO₂). These studies allow better understanding of hydrogenative conversions facilitated by gold catalysts, which show great promise in hydrogenation applications but for which relevant fundamental studies are lacking. The experimental results unravel the unique and remarkable catalytic activity of gold in hydrogenation reactions: i) H atoms weakly absorb on the Au(111) surface and have a low desorption activation energy of ~ 28 kJ/mol; ii) acetaldehyde can be hydrogenated to ethanol at a low temperature of < 200 K; iii) propionaldehyde can be hydrogenated to 1-proponal (CH₃CH₂CH₂OH) on H pre-covered Au(111) whereas 2-propanol (CH₃CH(OH)CH₃) cannot be formed in the reaction of acetone with hydrogen atoms; iv) a coupling reaction of aldehyde-aldehyde or aldehyde-alcohol is observed on the H pre-covered Au(111) surface at temperatures lower than 200 K and this reaction can produce various ethers (symmetrical or unsymmetrical) from aldehydes and alcohols with the corresponding chain length; v) co-adsorbed H atoms have a strong interaction with water on the gold model surface and induce the dissociation of the O-H bond in water, which cannot be dissociated on the clean surface; vi) we observed a facile reaction of NO₂ reduction on H covered Au(111) and NO is produced at 77 K, yielding high NO₂ (100 %) conversion and selectivity towards NO (100 %) upon heating the surface to ~ 120 K. These studies indicate the exceptional catalytic activity of gold and enhance the understanding of surface chemistry of classical supported Au-based catalysts at the molecular scale.